New Alzheimer’s Society CEO starts early as Hughes steps back due to ‘toll on health’

The new Alzheimer’s Society CEO, Kate Lee, will commence her new roll on Monday, ahead of her scheduled start date in April.

Her arrival comes as Jeremy Hughes announced he would be stepping back from his role as chief executive early for health reasons amid a series of bullying allegations.

Hughes has been at the centre of intense media scrutiny over the past week amid allegations that the charity spent as much as £750,000 on payouts to staff following complaints of a ‘toxic’ workplace culture at the charity.

Complaints centred around leadership in particularl, with one whistleblower alleging Hughes had an 'explosive temper' and showed bullying behaviour towards staff.

Hughes said the allegations were “deeply concerning” and that he "champions a positive workplace culture, expecting high performance of all to make a difference for people affected by dementia".

Alzheimer’s Society stated it has a 'zero tolerance of bullying' and ‘strongly refutes’ the figure of £750,000, but stated it had used settlement agreements for ‘legitimate reasons’.

The trustee board also claimed it 'has not and does not use settlement agreements or non-disclosure agreements to stop anyone reporting any whistleblowing, harassment or discrimination complaints'.

The board added: “We are continuing to do everything we can to ensure all employees are aware of all the channels available to them to raise issues or concerns, and that they are supported to do so”.

'Recent events have taken a toll on Jeremy's health'

In a statement from the charity’s chair of trustees, Stephen Hill, the charity announced Hughes had decided to step back from his role a few weeks early as ‘recent events have taken their toll on his health’.

“He has therefore decided to step aside a few weeks early as chief executive and I am delighted that Kate Lee is able to take up responsibility for leading the Society starting on Monday,” Hill said.

“We remain committed to ensuring our incredibly hard-working and dedicated employees and volunteers can focus on our vital work to improve the lives of people affected by dementia.”

The Charity Commission is currently investigations allegations made about the charity, which it did not initially follow up at the time they were made.

Hill said the trustee board ‘welcomes’ the investigation and “will, of course, co-operate fully with it”.

Hughes: "I can think of no one better to take up leading AS"

Lee will join the charity from CLIC Sargent, where she has been chief executive for four years.

During her time with the charity, she oversaw the charity's re-brand, successfully campaigned for the government to fund the funerals of all children under the age of 18 and won a £15m partnership with Morrisons.

Last year, she won the Charity Principal of the Year Award at the Charity Times Awards 2019 and was featured among the Charity Times 25 Most Influential Charity Leaders list for her work on driving transparency and honesty across the sector.

In recent years, CLIC Sargent has become well-known among the sector for its annual 'impact and accountability report', which puts honesty at the forefront and exemplifies a uniquely transparent approach to sharing the charity's results and failures.

On announcing her appointment last year, Hughes said: "I am proud to be passing the reins to Kate. Having worked with her before, I can think of no one better to take up leading Alzheimer’s Society’s determination to make life better for people affected by dementia, today and tomorrow.”

Samaritans reverses decision to appoint Hughes

Hughes was scheduled to join UK suicide-prevention charity Samaritans as its new CEO in May this year – a decision the charity reversed yesterday.

The charity's trustees said in light of the events over the past week it “cannot proceed with the appointment of Jeremy Hughes as chief executive, which was due to start in May”.

“This decision is not in any way based on the allegations themselves, which Samaritans is not in a position to judge,” the charity said in a statement.

The charity's decision follows pressure from both the public and Unite the union to re-consider its appointment under the circumstances.

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